Chain of Command Espana: The Traditionalist Militias
The troops which have become known to us as the Requetés, were a mix of militias drawn from several political and social groups that existed within Spain during the era. Their one common facet was that they were all ostensibly devout and fervent Roman Catholics. To what extent this was true in each individual case is open to question, but nevertheless it does appear that, as a rule religious fervor within units of Requetés did surpass revolutionary or counter-revolutionary fervor in almost any other unit, with perhaps the exception of the Legion, which also shared some of socio-religious beliefs generally held by the Requetés. In the Legion’s case, this was mixed with a discipline code and culture which glorified sacrifice for country, giving them the edge on acts of virtually suicidal bravery.
The bulk of the Requetés were drawn from Navarre and the areas surrounding it and which culturally were very much part of ‘Old Spain’. Only in the few towns that had embraced industry, was there anything like any popular support for socialist views and by and large, little had changed since the Middle Ages. The only other area of note for producing Requetés was Andalucia, where as a show of strength for the ‘Traditionalist’ movement, six hundred of them had marched through Seville, earlier in 1936.
Little wonder therefore that belief that the Rojos (Reds) wanted to tear down everything that Spain meant to these people and commit them to an eternity in purgatory for crimes against God, done in their name, should provoke such fury. To add fuel to the fire, the Catholic Church supported such beliefs and routinely railed against the Rojos and their transgressions, from the pulpit. For the Requetés this was not a war over political differences, but a Holy Crusade.
As was the case elsewhere, sympathetic Army officers had been helping to resurrect the militias which had defended both Monarchy (albeit with rival claimants) and Church during the Carlist Wars of the 19th Century. Military firearms were relatively few, but many individuals owned one of a range of hunting rifles and shotguns, allowing meaningful training to be undertaken. When the rebellion began the Requetés began travelling to those towns which formed the centre of the revolt in their region. For the Navarrese it was Pamplona and for the Andalucians Seville. While as usual there were not sufficient support weapons to equip them, rifles were available, albeit of some antiquity on occasion. In many cases contingents of men were also accompanied by their local priests, who in effect became ‘Commissars of God’ in the Requete formations.
Initially the various units of Requetés were grouped with line formations, so that support weapons could be attached to these militia formations and they could also enjoy somewhat more localised artillery and logistics support, than would otherwise be available to groups composed solely of Requetés. This was later formalised when the Navarrese Brigades were formed in February of 1937, each of which grouped one regular regiment with several Tercios (Battalions) of Requetés. By this time the Requetés were receiving their own support weapons as supply allowed and were beginning more and more to adopt the standard Spanish organisational structure.
Despite their amalgamation with the Falange in April 1937, the appearance of the Navarrese units remained largely unchanged throughout Civil War and the FET de las Jons adopted their distinctive Red Berets (Boinas Rojas). Contrary to popular belief however, these were not universal and many individuals and units wore their civilian black berets. While the Falangist units in the North were virtually absorbed by the more numerous Requetés there, the Andalucian Requetés remained as distinctive units until the end of the Civil War.
This list can be used to create a Requete Infantry Platoon (Piquete) of the period July to November 1936, after which time their organisation began to conform to that of the Regular Army, as did their equipment. As a body of men, the Requetés were capable with their weapons and while any formation that has yet to come under fire, is somewhat suspect, the Requetés gained a reputation for being steadfast and at times totally without fear. Nevertheless they also suffered from lack of experience and took needless casualties that more experienced units could have avoided. Like other militias of the Civil War, the Requetés were not limited to being infantry and several mounted companies were raised in the North and at least one in the South. While not true cavalry, they performed the mounted infantry and scout roles more than adequately.
The list for the Traditionalist Militias can be found here: CoC – Traditionalist Militias